Essence has a new home.
Essence Ventures, an independent African-American owned company founded last year by Sundial Brands founder Richelieu Dennis, will acquire Essence Communications from Time Inc., for an undisclosed price, the companies said Wednesday.
Current Essence President Michelle Ebanks will remain in her job at the company and join Essence Ventures’ board of directors. And the media company’s all-black female executive team, including Ebanks, will have an equity stake in Essence Ventures.
Dennis, who founded Sundial Brands in 1991, created Essence Ventures as a vehicle to merge content, community and commerce. Beyond the magazine, which began publishing in 1970 and was fully acquired by Time Inc. in 2005, Essence also operates the Essence Festival, which was held in New Orleans last summer for its 23rd annual gathering.
Essence also holds another two dozen events annually including the Black Women in Hollywood awards, a Black Women in Music event prior to the Grammys, and Street Style, a Fashion Week event in Brooklyn.
Dennis complemented Ebanks for her “strategic vision and leadership” in a statement, adding “we are excited to be able to return this culturally relevant and historically significant platform to ownership by the people and the consumers whom it serves and offer new opportunities for the women leading the business to also be partners in the business.”
Essence is among a collection of assets that Time Inc. had put up for sale prior to Meredith Corp. making its $2.8 billion bid for the nation’s largest publisher in November. Meredith, which publishes Better Homes & Gardens among its magazines and owns 17 TV stations, got a $650 million commitment from Charles and David Koch’s equity development fund to help finance the deal.
Time Inc. had entertained bids from buyers in early 2017, but in April company president and CEO Rich Battista said the company would remain on its own. Like other print publishers, Time Inc. has faced declining print advertising and circulation revenues. Its third-quarter revenue, announced two months ago, fell 9% to $679 million and missed expectations of analysts polled by S&P Global Market Intelligence of $693 million.
Still, Essence has grown its audience beyond a circulation of more than 1 million, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, with a social media reach of about 9 million, too. It has relaunched Essence.com, began podcasts and a weekly talk show “Essence Now” on Twitter.
“The Essence team has extended the brand’s reach and influence across multiple platforms, solidifying its position as the premier destination for African-American women serving an audience of 16.3 million,” Battista said in a statement.
This deal is timely as black women’s influence is intensifying, says Ebanks. “From her influence in politics and at the polls, mandate for social justice, and demand for economic inclusion to her impact on beauty culture, leadership in equal rights efforts, and catalyzation of community empowerment, she is at the forefront — driving the cultural phenomena that are positively changing the world,” she said in a statement. “Essence will continue to lead that charge with, for and beside her as the unparalleled platform for her voice.”